MLB Thursday Preview: Phillies at Cubs, White Sox at Astros
Philadelphia Phillies (28-21) at Chicago Cubs (29-18), 2:20 p.m. ET
MLB Free Play: Cubs moneylineAaron Nola (4-0, 4.47 ERA) (PHI) +110 / +1.5 runs (-180) / Over 9.5 runs (EVEN) Jon Lester (3-2, 2.09 ERA) (CHC) -120 / -1.5 runs (+150) / Under 9.5 runs (-120)
The advantage would seem to rest with the home team for Thursday afternoon's series finale.
Aaron Nola enters this contest having given up exactly one earned run in four of his last five starts, but Chicago's bats have done fairly well against him in the past. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has gone deep twice in six previous at-bats against Nola, and catcher Willson Contreras has tallied two hits in four prior meetings. The Cubs' offense is always one to fear, ranking fourth in runs per game at 5.38.
Jon Lester's stats at Wrigley Field over the last three seasons are very good. He is 24-9 (50 starts) with a 3.22 ERA and a 2.88 strikeout/walk ratio. In 19 2/3 innings of work at home this year (four starts), Lester has allowed just one earned run.
Chicago White Sox (22-26) at Houston Astros (33-17), 8:10 p.m. ET
MLB Free Play: Under five runs first five innings (-110)Lucas Giolito (5-1, 3.35 ERA) (CHW) +165 / +1.5 runs (-125) / Over 9 runs (-105) Corbin Martin (1-0, 3.86 ERA) (HOU) -185 / -1.5 runs (+105) / Under 9 runs (-115)
Two young starters on the rise square off in Thursday night's series finale in Houston. Oddsmakers appear to be undervaluing them by setting a high total.
Lucas Giolito was considered by many to be a bust after a disastrous 2018, but patience has paid off for Chicago. After abandoning his sinker completely and focusing more on his changeup and slider this season (per fangraphs.com), Giolito has seen a significant reversal in fortune, pitching to a .208 batting average against through eight starts. He's broken the mold by pitching better on the road than at home (.176 batting average against compared to .254) and by sitting down more lefties than righties (.184 average vs. .231).
Martin has yet to be fully unleashed by Houston but has allowed just two earned runs in each of his first two starts. His ERA in Triple-A this year was a spiffy 1.48 through 24 1/3 innings.